Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dryer Balls

For many years I used Bounce dryer sheets in my dryer to help counteract all the static electricity amongst the clothes. About a year ago though, I decided that there must be a better (and less wasteful) way, so I made the commitment to not buy any more dryer sheets once the box I was using was empty.

Well the box emptied and I didn't do any research on natural and environmentally friendly options to help combat the static. Instead, we had crazy static clothes for 6 months until Dan told me I had to do something about it. He was sick of his hair going flat to his forehead every time he put on a shirt.

So about a month ago, I womaned up and hopped on to Pinterest to find a solution to our problems. The answer? Dryer balls.

I found lots of tutorials on how to make them but I chose to follow the instructions from DIY Natural and am pleased with how they turned out.

First of all, I bought some 100% wool yarn from Michaels. I tried two different kinds and found that the Roving one worked best.

It was thicker and "hairier" so it felted better once it was heated. It also made two nice sized balls instead of small ones like the Worsted did.

Once I had made six balls, I shoved them all into a nylon and tied off between the balls, before throwing them into the wash and then the dryer.

I did the wash/dry thing twice before I was happy with their felted quality. I popped them out of their nylon caterpillar and then put them into a pretty dish to display.

I've been using them for about a month now and they have most definitely helped with the static problem. They are also supposed to soften the clothes and lower the drying time but I haven't noticed a huge difference in that area yet. Then again, I may just be slow.

Oh and I should mention that if you prefer some nicely scented fresh laundry, you can put a couple drops of essential oils into your dryer balls. I didn't because I don't really care for scented laundry, unless it's the fresh scent from being hung outdoors.

Anyone else ever try any alternatives to the classic store bought dryer sheet?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Chicken Treat Feeder

Happy Monday morning everyone! I trust that you all had a good weekend and that you are ready to face the last few days of April. I can't believe it's almost May! Now if only we could get some nice May weather...

Anyways, today I am going to share my newest project with you guys and this one I am especially proud of since I made the whole thing myself! As most of you know, Dan is usually the main project builder and I either hold things or just watch. Basically, I am normally pretty useless.

But after receiving my new Fresh Eggs Daily book from the lovely Lisa who blogs over at Fresh Eggs Daily, I was feeling inspired to spruce up the chicken's run. She recommended making a treat feeder and she even gave instructions on how to do it. I decided it was simple enough to make and Dan encouraged me to try it myself. So I did!

The first step was cutting out the right sized pieces and this involved using the big scary chop saw. I've never used this saw before (or any saw really), but figured that I'd seen Dan make enough cuts over the past few months that I could probably be able to make three tiny cuts. I measured the lengths I needed and got down to business.

And I totally did it all by myself! Aren't you proud of me? I sure am. I don't think that I'm quite ready to take over all the cutting needs, but I was pretty pleased that I faced my fear of power tools and made this project by myself.

Well if I am being completely honest, Dan did help a tiny bit. He made a few suggestions here and there and occasionally held something for me while I assembled, but still, mostly me! So I'm still calling it my solo project.

I also had the help of my instructions from my book, which Dan laughed at. He told me it was a pretty straight forward project and I could probably guess what to do next.

Once my frame was built, I stapled chicken wire around it, leaving the top open to insert treats into. Dan helped hold things straight for this part, since I find the staple gun really hard to use. I'm too weak for it or something.

Overall, this project was pretty simple and only took me a half hour or so. Mostly because I'm slow. So if you want to attempt it, it would probably go faster.

We hung it up in the run and then I got some nice treats for the chickens, a mix of apples, honey dew melon and cantaloupe.

Isn't it a nice treat feeder? I sure think so.

The chickens weren't too sure what to think of it at first and it took a while before they figured out how to work it. But Fuzzy Butt and Sandra soon figured it out and the rest followed suit shortly after.

So there you have it, a nice new treat feeder for my girls (and boys) that I made all by myself. Anyone else been tackling any outdoor projects lately? I have a whole list of stuff to do once the weather warms up a little bit more.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NIAW "You Are Not Alone" - Mrs. E's Story

***April 19-25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "You Are Not Alone". I am taking part by sharing stories from women that I personally know who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the fifth in my 2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.***  

When Jenn asked me to write my ”fertility story,” the first thing that came to mind was how my story is so much more complicated than that, and that I’m unfortunately not alone in feeling that way. My story is not just about infertility, but about loss, fear, and grief.

We started TTC in September 2011. In January 2012, I found out I was pregnant. Looking back, that was the best day of my life. I was so happy. I bought cute little baby socks, and a card in which I wrote “Congratulations, Daddy!” and gave them to my husband. He smiled, laughed, hugged me, yelled “It worked!” and we started planning for our new baby. 

Six weeks later, I had a tiny bit of spotting. I called the midwife, who told me to stop worrying. But I couldn’t. I felt in my heart that something was wrong. I went in for an ultrasound, where they kept telling me spotting is normal. But when the doctor was looking at the screen, she wasn’t smiling. ”I see a sac,” she said, “but it’s not eight weeks.” The sac was empty. I cried. My husband and I grieved. ”This is common,” they said, “it’ll work the next time.”

Grief turned to fear a few days later when I found out the empty sac was right at the entrance to my left tube. They said I might need surgery, but that I could try a methotrexate injection first. But they had to admit me overnight, in case I started bleeding to death. Now, not only did we lose our baby, but my life was threatened. Fortunately, the methotrexate worked and I did not, obviously, bleed to death.

After having to wait for six months, we were able to try again. It took eight months, but in February 2013 I was pregnant again. This time, we thought, will be different. At first, my betas looked good. But after a few weeks, we saw that the sac was empty yet again. This time, it was less complicated, but I still had to take medicine to induce the miscarriage since my body wasn’t taking care of it. It was painful, physically and emotionally. We had to cancel a vacation to go to the hospital and miscarry a baby. ”Next time,” they said, “it will work.”

After that loss, they ran some tests, and realized my uterus was a little bit heart-shaped. Long story short, I had three hysteroscopies and they removed most of what was a septum, hoping that would solve the problem, but it didn’t. I stopped one of my medications I was taking, hoping that would solve the problem. But it didn’t. I went to see an RE (reproductive endocrinologist), and we ran some more tests, but everything looked ok.

In December 2013, I found out I was pregnant again. A few weeks later, an ultrasound showed nothing in my uterus. I started bleeding a few days later.

In March 2014, I was pregnant yet again. An ultrasound showed a small, empty sac. I started bleeding a few days after that, too.

All this time, the doctors kept reassuring us that since we were able to get pregnant “so easily”, we should be grateful for that and that, eventually, it will work out. However, a year went by, and I didn’t get pregnant again, despite doing everything in my power to time things optimally. Back to the RE we went. We tried an IUI cycle, which ended with me getting my period 10 days after ovulation (way earlier than ever before), and no pregnancy.

Then we tried IVF, which resulted in my ovaries responding too much and producing too many follicles. After an excruciatingly painful few days, the end result was a cancelled transfer and 4 embryos in the freezer. We are currently in the process of trying to transfer one of those before I move across the world (and my husband can’t join me for another six months or so), making this our last chance for a very long time. If this doesn’t work, it’ll be at least another six months before we can even try the old-fashioned way (which obviously doesn’t work for us).

In the meantime, it seems like all of my friends have had babies. Many have joked about how easy it was to get pregnant. Many have complained about how awful it is to be pregnant. Many have complained about how terrible life is with a newborn. Many have told me how lucky I am that I don’t have kids.
In the meantime, my brother-in-law has met a girl, proposed to her, married her, and has (almost) had a baby less than a year after getting married.

In the meantime, I have been asked several times a week when I’m going to have kids, or why I don’t have kids yet, or don’t I know it only gets harder when I get older? I am 30 after all, it’s time to start thinking about kids! I have been told by my father, who I love dearly and am very close to, that I wasn’t “really pregnant” since the sac was empty. 

In the meantime, I have faced tougher challenges than I ever thought imaginable. In less than four years, I have lost four babies, none of which were ever more than empty sacs. My body has been through hell and back. It has been tough on our marriage, especially since we grieve in different ways. I do believe I am a stronger person after having gone through all this, but it is certainly not worth it. The devastation I have felt, and still feel every day, has left irreparable scars on my heart.

In the meantime, my heart hurts every day. Every time I see a pregnant woman. Every time I see a baby. Every time I see the hurt in my husband’s eyes. Every time we hit yet another setback. I hate that I feel jealousy towards pregnant women and mothers, but I can’t seem to make it go away. I want to feel nothing but happiness for my pregnant friends, but all I can seem to feel is hurt and emptiness.

This experience has completely changed me. Instead of squealing with happiness when a friend announces her pregnancy, I have to excuse myself to the bathroom to go cry. Instead of happily discussing baby names for hypothetical babies with a friend, I quickly change the subject. Instead of talking about “when” I have kids, I talk about “if.” I have hit rock bottom, crying uncontrollably on the floor from grief and physical pain in the middle of a miscarriage, unable to be consoled by my husband. 

One of the hardest things for me to deal with has been the feeling of letting my husband down. He wants to be a father just as much as I want to be a mother. And yet, I keep losing our babies. And now I can’t even get pregnant. I feel like a failure as a woman, a wife, and a mother, and that just adds another layer of pain.

I think everyone dealing with infertility/pregnancy loss asks themselves the same questions over and over again: What did I do to deserve this? When is it going to be my turn? I certainly ask myself those questions all the time. I try to focus on the positive things in my life. I really do have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful husband, a strong marriage, an awesome career that is just taking off, and a loving family. But I want a baby more than anything. So I just keep hoping. That one day, maybe, just maybe, it will be my turn.

If you would like to read more about my journey, please fee free to take a look at my blog, Adventures Abound Abroad.


2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" Series

Katie's Story
J's Story

Thursday, April 23, 2015

NIAW "You Are Not Alone" - J's Story

***April 19-25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "You Are Not Alone". I am taking part by sharing stories from women that I personally know who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the fourth in my 2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.*** 

This is really scary for me…. Not just because I’ve never shared my story like this before (I haven’t) but because of the dark and grief-ridden place this sharing takes me to… the darkest, most horrible, tear filled places of my life. There were also the most depressingly LONELY places… so that’s why I’m sucking it up – typing through the tears and sharing. Because infertility and loss is hard enough without feeling alone; without thinking like nobody understands, without fearing that you’re crazy for how you feel. If my sharing helps one woman to not feel alone in her struggle, to know she’s not insane and what she feels is NORMAL or if it helps one person be more understanding and sympathetic and supportive for a family struggling with infertility or loss…then I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish with this writing.  

Before I proceed – I want to warn the readers that my story contains many many possible emotional triggers and I do also talk about successful pregnancy and babies. 

My husband “E” and I married five years ago. We’d dated for over 4 years and were honestly happy with ‘living in sin’ but we wanted to have children. We felt getting married made the most sense and was easier when you’re going to raise a family. So we got married, went on a month long honeymoon, and then got off birth control to begin trying to have a baby. 

We were so READY for a baby. We had been together a long time, we had a house, both cars were paid off, we had excellent jobs and health benefits – we were at the perfect spot in life to get pregnant. I felt like this thought was proven correct when we got pregnant the first month. Staring at the two lines on a pee stick, we hugged and kissed each other. We were going to be parents come September!  God, how naïve we were. Meet the soul mate, buy a house, get married, have one last party and have a baby – picture perfect and everything was going according to plan….  Until it wasn’t. I was blissfully picking out names, thinking about how to decorate the nursery, and moaning about how I wasn’t going to fit into my pants when my world started to crumble. I was away from home on a work trip when I started bleeding. I spent the night in the bathroom, tears streaming down my face, as I shook with fear.  The next day, doctors confirmed the worst – We had lost our baby at 5 weeks. 

I felt stunned; I went through the next couple weeks like a sleepwalker. I just kept going over and over in my mind what happened, trying to figure out why. I rehashed the last day of pregnancy and analyzed every little thing I did. I was on my feet a lot that day – was that it? I had drank a diet coke – had the caffeine caused my miscarriage? I took a bath the night before – had it been too hot? E tried to reassure me. This happens sometimes. It is not uncommon. We would be fine the next time. Since we’d gotten pregnant so easily the first time, we would be just fine. And I allowed myself to be soothed. My mom had had a miscarriage before having me but then all was great. Nothing to worry about. We’d try again and this time, it would be perfect. 

We started trying again in February/March and our second Positive pregnancy test came at the end of April.  But this time, it felt so different. This time, I was worried. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but whether it was going to be okay this time. I checked my underwear for blood about 20 times a day. To reassure me, the OB ran betas. Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect from curbing my anxiety. The betas were low and so was my progesterone. The doc put me on a progesterone supplement but my fear was growing. We went through two weeks of “limbo” with slow rising numbers and a couple reassuring ultrasounds but I had this terrible feeling of dread. That dread was proven to be foresight when our 8 week ultrasound showed we’d lost our January snowflake. 

During this time, when I'm still bleeding from the miscarriage... still grieving... still feeling like I’m a failure; my cousin gives birth 2 weeks early.  It is a stab in the heart. I remember sitting there and wishing I could be happy for her but I really couldn’t. I felt like a horrible person but I was just really hating the world... and her. My whole extended family (only my parents knew about our losses) is calling me, excited to share the news and tell me how much the baby weighs and everything. And I just want to scream "leave me the Hell alone! I don't care about her or her baby, I don't want to hear it...I hate you and your happiness". I just feel like curling up in a ball and bawling my eyes out. It’s just so hard to be literally in the midst of miscarrying my baby and listening to someone else celebrating the birth of theirs….and it made me mad. At them, at her, at her child, at my family, at God, at the world, at myself. How could this happen again? What was I doing wrong? 

We insisted on running tests following this loss. We did some blood work and a HSG scan to see if there's anything abnormal. The results were somewhat inconclusive. I had some elevated numbers for blood clotting but nothing terrible. However, my OB decided on daily doses of baby aspirin, just to bring those numbers more into the normal range. So that was the plan… I tried to feel reassured, I tried to be positive, and I tried to listen to E when he said that next time would be different. That we’d found and solved the problem… but the idea of trying to conceive again TERRIFIED me. 

But I still did it; although by this point – trying to conceive was like a job. A duty we had to fulfill. We went through the motions, we had sex when we were ‘supposed’ to but all the joy, love, and fun were gone. Sucked out by grief and loss and fear. Many times, E had performance issues because of the ‘pressure’ we both felt. It wasn’t making love anymore – it was having intercourse so we could get pregnant. We never even really talked about it; I think we were both embarrassed to admit how little we enjoyed being intimate anymore.  

And our love life wasn’t the only thing suffering. My work and social life had taken a huge nose dive in productivity and enjoyment. But I couldn’t stand to see pregnant women, babies would cause me to burst into tears, I hated parents. I had to turn off commercials because diaper ads would cause me to implode. I remember a conference call…it is just after my first due date. If my first pregnancy went to term, I would be cuddling a newborn. But I’m not…and one of the other state workers is on the call. She is just back from maternity leave after having a baby in July. And she is feeding him while she is on the conference call! So I'm stuck listening to him coo and and burble over the phone. She is making comments about how her son is a noisy eater and that she's sorry that we can't see him because he's "pretty adorable". Everyone is talking about the baby on the call. I muted the call because I am crying so hard that I can barely breathe. I didn't trust myself to talk. All I can think is this should be me. I should be feeding my week-old baby right now.  Instead I sat here with empty arms and pain and grief filling my heart.  

But the lackluster lovemaking does its job; so to speak; and at the end of September – we get another positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, I know all too well now that two pink lines does not mean a baby in 9 months. I don’t even really bond with my pregnancy or baby this time; I can’t. I can’t open my heart to loss again. Neither E nor I tell our parents we’re pregnant, we don’t even talk about it with each other. We just go through the motions and wait for something to give us hope and reassurance that this time would be it. 

That hope comes with our 6 week ultrasound when the ultrasound picks up a beautiful little heartbeat. 127bpm and it sounds amazing. E and I cry and hug and finally get excited. Our little June Bug was doing so well! We set up an ultrasound for the next week and walk out of the office on cloud 9. I tell my parents, he tells his parents. We begin to look at the empty room in a new light ‘this will be the nursery’. But then our 9 week appointment… the OB is going to try a Doppler, even though it is early. I remember him moving the Doppler all over – trying to find a heartbeat…and failing. But no worries, the OB says – it’s still very early. We will just do a quick ultrasound. The ultrasound machine is on and I’m chatting with DH about how big he thinks the baby will be now when I realize that I’m not hearing anything… “Where’s the heartbeat?” I ask. Silence…and then these horrible words rip open my heart “I’m so sorry, there isn’t one. The baby is gone.” Everything is very hazy after that, I remember screaming. I remember crying and I remember the silence of the heart monitor and the doctor but that’s about it.  I don’t remember even getting home. 

This loss was just so much harder than the previous two. I didn’t go to work for almost two weeks. I was bawling 10 times a day... I’d let myself get my hopes up after seeing the heartbeat and the letdown was so much tougher....we had never seen a heartbeat with the previous two losses so I’d let myself get all jazzed up that we had the solution - the baby aspirin was my miracle drug. But no such luck. I started dreading the holidays. Thanksgiving was when we were supposed to tell the whole family and now I had to just sit there and think about how happy the day was SUPPOSED to be. I had to put away an entire box of Christmas gifts... I'm the type that starts Christmas shopping in like May so I had a bunch of "Grandma" and "Great Grandma" and "Daddy to Be" gifts. And now they are stuck away in the closet of the room that was SUPPOSED to be the nursery... I kept the door to the room shut. I couldn’t even think about it. 

At this point, I had lost my hope. E tried to help; he tried to be very supportive and kind. He is the best hubby in the world but I felt like he can't grasp the depth of this pain. The doctor kept saying that "next time" they will try a more powerful blood thinner and that "next time" they will start the progesterone earlier.  Next time... next time... next time - it made me want to SCREAM. For the doctor - it is easy "next time" and try try again. For me.... it wasn’t close to that simple. I just felt like trying again is pointless.... that I was setting myself up for another loss and more pain and grief. I was ready to just give up. 

We had a D&C done, to try and determine cause of death. But I didn’t hold out any hope that this would offer the solution. However, I was wrong. The results showed that the baby had unbalanced chromosomes. The suspicion was that there may be a chromosome issue and so a full genetic panel was done on me and E. In November, the results showed I had a balanced chromosomal translocation. Basically, I have all the same chromosomes as everyone – but two of them have switched places. My translocation was balanced (in that the same genetic material was ‘swapped’ evenly between my chromosomes). I have no missing genetic material but when the chromosomes divide to make the egg, it gets too much or too little of a chromosome and the result is a chromosomal imbalance.

I thought I would be relieved to have answers, to finally know WHY this was happening. But I wasn’t…  I was worried and guilty. The guilt was the worst part. This was MY fault. I had the screwed up body, I was why E wasn’t holding a baby in his arms. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I hated my body, I hated me. 

We were referred to an RE at this point. We were high risk and needed to be managed by a specialist. The nearest RE was 100 miles away. But honestly I would have driven twice that to be a patient with Dr. S. She is the most wonderful, understanding, and supportive doctor imaginable. She truly cares about her patients and held our hand every step of the way. Without her, we would truly have been lost. I’m very thankful that she was in this struggle with us. 

We were told the IVF was our best, if not only, option for a successful pregnancy. But of course, that’s incredibly costly. However, we did have one option. Our insurance covered one round of IVF per lifetime. One chance, one hope. We would have to cover our own genetic testing but the IVF should be covered. I say ‘should’ because thus began the 3 month battle to get coverage. 

The insurance company argued that I wasn’t “infertile” because I could get pregnant. I had gotten pregnant three times and the doctors said I could get pregnant again. The insurance company felt like we should just keep trying and keep rolling the dice and keep suffering losses until we got lucky. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face that. Luckily, Dr S doubles as a superhero and with her help and backing and personal letters and phone calls to the insurance company, the oversight and the appeals committee… she got us approved for coverage. We would move forward with our IVF cycle in March. Dr. S felt very confident that we could get 10-12 eggs and have at least 2 be chromosomal normal and that there was every reason to expect those to implant and go to term. 

So we were feeling positive about our position and our cycle, hopeful even. This was good because at this same time, I was dealing with incredible family stress and turmoil. My Dad had a terminal lung disease. He was sent to the ICU in February because of inflammation of the lungs, after which he was transferred to a hospital specialty care center. Our only hope for his survival was a lung transplant. I’m praying and asking everyone else to pray because I want so very badly for him to live to be a grandpa. I was able to fly out and spend 10 days with him in February and I couldn’t even believe how ill he looked. But within a few days, he was stabilized. We knew that a transplant was the only thing that would save him but he seemed better. Through all this, he was still more focused on our cycle and our future children then his own health. So he sent me home with strict instructions to have a good cycle and “get to making babies.” Even after being rushed to the ICU twice for imminent lung collapse, when he got on the phone – all he wanted to talk about was how I was feeling and how things were going for me. 

I found out later that throughout this cycle, he was rapidly declining. My mother and sister were forbidden to tell me how bad he was. My Dad was adamant that the only thing that mattered was this cycle – our one chance at having a baby. He knew I’d cancel and come to be with him if I was told how bad his health was so he commanded that everyone keep the secret. 

In March, I went in for egg retrieval. They got 10 eggs. Dr S was happy with that number, the likelihood for at least 2 normal embryos from that was very good. I was at the hotel recovering a couple hours later when we got the call. Dr S asked if she could come see us. I thought it was so strange and I kept asking if everything was all right… finally she said “I’m so sorry but all your eggs are abnormal – so abnormal we didn’t even fertilize them. I don’t know how to say this but there is no possibility for you to have children with your eggs.” I sat there…shocked. I couldn’t even move. E finally pried the phone from my hand and Dr S told him the news. He held me while I cried and cried and cried for hours. Dr S had told E that we could consider Donor egg, that was a good possibility for us and to let us know when we were ready to talk about options. 

The hardest part for me was picking up the phone to call Dad and tell him that it was bad. That he wouldn’t have grandkids from me.  Unfortunately, by this point – Dad was too sick to talk on the phone. He couldn’t even breathe without assistance at this point. My Mom broke down and confessed that Dad had mere days to live…. 

We got on a plane the next day. I know what it feels like to experience “heartbreak.” I thought with my losses, I already understood the concept but I had no clue just how many pieces one’s heart can shatter into. The next day, my Dad passed peacefully. He is in a better place- no longer struggling just to breathe. He was surrounded by his family.  I made it in time to see him, to say goodbye. I did not tell him our devastating news.  I simply said "you will have wonderful grandchildren someday who will hear all the funny and loveable Dad stories." And promised myself that I would not have some of my final words have been a lie. Someway, somehow - we would have babies.  I didn’t know whether that would be donor, adoption or what but I was determined that we would have a family….

Then I got smacked again a few weeks later. My sister in law announced she was pregnant… again. And for the second time – this was an “oops”. I lost it. How unfair! She is barely making ends meet; she has only been dating the guy a couple months (different father from her first child) and she doesn’t even WANT more kids. E and I sit here with a stable marriage, stable income, own a house, and desperately – like would hack off limbs to make it happen – want to have kids. And we were struggling with procreation while she gets knocked up whenever the condom breaks. Thanks Universe - you suck. 

I admit I didn’t deal with her pregnancy at all well. I avoided her. I begged out of family gatherings. I refused to participate in holidays for more than a few hours. And ultimately when the baby was born, I couldn’t stand to visit or see him for over a month. I hated her, I hated life, I hated everything.

The day after sister in law announced was Father's day.... and I didn't have my Dad. I knew that day would be hard, but it was almost unbearable. I always prayed and imagined my kids running up to give him Father's day cards.... and it’s never going to happen. I delivered my father's day card to the cemetery....  I could barely see straight. This pain in my chest and my heart was just suffocating. Supposedly, God doesn't send you more heartache then one can bear... but I really felt like he's overestimating me.  

But I think my Dad was looking down on me because that day was also when my Mom handed me a check. She said it was from my Dad and his life insurance. My dad is an amazing and wonderful man - his last thoughts were for me and his future grandchildren. He left money in his life insurance specifically designated to pay for another IVF cycle. Dad said that grandbabies would be his greatest legacy.

So we tried again - with a Donor IVF cycle. After several false starts and delays and problems with getting a donor - we had our first DE IVF cycle in October. Unfortunately, we only had one egg fertilize. We did a 3 day transfer of a single fair embryo but resulted in a big fat negative. Heartbreak… But once the initial devastation passed and we were on a (somewhat) more even keel.... we talked about our options. Because our clinic guarantees 2 high-quality day 3 embryos and we didn't have that - we get a free DE IVF cycle. So we knew that we can take one last crack at pregnancy... but we had to make a decision about whether to open ourselves to possible heartbreak once more.... 

I didn't want to throw away the wonderful gift that my Dad gave us...and I wanted so desperately to be a Mom, to carry our baby, to hold our baby in my arms... it broke me down to think it might never happen. So after a lot of discussion and soul searching - we decided to go for it.... one last time.
So we chose a new donor and scheduled our next cycle for January.   I opened my heart to hope one more time. That "hope" character is a sneaky little bugger - it crept out of the dark hole I threw it in and snuck right up on me. But I was also 100% terrified... like ready to have a panic attack every time I thought about doing this again… train of thoughts like “I can't believe I'm doing this again. Am I crazy? I am crazy.” But not only is the trying to conceive tough to manage but it was my fist holidays without Dad.... and the grief and sadness threatened to overwhelm me on a daily basis. Even if someday (whether by IVF or adoption) I had children, I would never see him hold his grandbaby or bounce them on his knee.....and that still breaks my heart. 

Unfortunately Donor cycle #2 was also a bust. We had two decent embryos but neither stuck. Black black hole of despair. And on top of this… I finally had to visit Sister-in-law and her new baby. I needed to face the situation eventually; it was having a super negative effect on E and my already suffering relationship. So I womaned up, took some Xanax and went. I spent the entire drive over there in tears and panic attacks (we had to drive around the block a few times until I calmed down). But I held it together the whole time actually. I choked up a few times but kept control. E had talked to his sister ahead of time and asked her to not "push the baby" on me or ask me to hold him or anything. And she was actually pretty respectful of it. I didn't get the nerve to hold the nephew but I survived. E was very understanding and empathic - now that I was "actually trying" to deal with my emotions. E actually refused to hold the baby because it would be so painful to me (gold star for awesome hubby there).   

That was one of those times that I was reminded why I married that man. Our relationship had really been on the rocks. It’s been said that infertility is a marriage killer and I can attest to how very true that is. It was very hard to hold it together as a couple with all the stress we were under. I look back and sometimes I wonder how we managed it….

At this point, we were discussing adoption. I just couldn’t face another IVF disappointment. But E was not so gung ho. He wanted to try IVF again. There was still some money left from my Dad and Dr S told us that we may qualify for the guarantee program. Basically, you pay a lot more money and you get three tries and if you don’t bring home a baby – your get all your money back. After much discussion, I agreed to apply for the program. My only stipulation was that we pursued adoption at the same time. E agreed. I thought to myself “I can hold it together through three more cycles, I’ve held through 3 years, 3 losses, 3 bad IVF rounds… I can do one more year.” And honestly, I didn’t think we’d get into the program. With my history? I felt like there was no chance. 

But in February, we were notified that we qualified and were scheduled for our cycle in March. What were we thinking? It wasn’t going to work… no way. But I had agreed to this so I plunged in.
The cycle was actually the smoothest we had ever had. We transferred two beautiful little embryos and settled in to a two week wait. 

I will always remember that day…that Monday… I had taken a pregnancy test the day before and it was stark white negative. Not surprising… I knew it wasn’t gonna work. But that morning I looked and swore I saw something. My eyes must be deceiving me, right. I asked E but he said it looked negative to him. I couldn’t shake the feeling though… I begged E to go to the store and get some more tests. He finally relented and agreed but I think in his head he was thinking “my wife has gone off the deep end and is seeing things now.” But he did it. I retested and screamed when the second line showed up! It worked! It worked! I sat down and cried happy tears and kept looking at the test, to make sure it was all still real….

But it was. 8 ½ months and 14 hours of labor later, my beautiful rainbow baby was born. I'm absolutely head-over-heels, twitterpated, smitten, in love with him. He is the delight of my life, he is my miracle.  As I look back, I can say it was all worth it. The pain, the loss, the grief, the soul battering, it was all worth it the minute I held him in my arms and felt his breath on my face, had his little hand wrap around my finger… it was all worth it. 

My miracle didn’t arrive when and how I’d expected all those years before. He came on his own time and in a more unusual way. But that doesn’t matter, his genetic origins don’t matter one iota. When he says “Mama”, there is only one person he’s talking about and that’s his mother – ME. It doesn’t matter how they come into your family – natural conception, IUI, IVF, donor, adoption,– love makes a family. 

My journey wasn’t easy; it was the darkest, most terrible journey I think anyone can walk. And for those that are still walking it – my prayers are with you. I know how rough the road is and I know that it will not necessarily end with everyone getting a happy ending, a baby in everyone’s arms. My heart breaks at the thought…. But I do hope my story will help someone somewhere… to know that miracles can and do happen. I am hugging mine right now. 


2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" Series

Katie's Story
J's Story

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NIAW "You Are Not Alone" - Katie's Story

***April 19-25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "You Are Not Alone". I am taking part by sharing stories from women that I personally know who have experienced infertility first hand. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? Someone you know is probably struggling with infertility and you may or may not even know, since it is often a taboo subject. Help break the silence and raise awareness by sharing these posts on social media or with friends and family. For more information about NIAW, please click here. This post is the third in my 2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" series. To see more stories, scroll to the bottom of this page for links.*** 

October 8th, 2011 was the best day of my life! It was a beautiful sunny fall day. It was memorable and special, marking the beginning of a new journey. October 8th, 2011 was the day I married my best friend, Rick! We were happy and excited to start our lives together and had no clue where life would take us. This photo is exactly how we have walked through everything - side by side and hand in hand. This is our story.

About 2 and half years ago I was experiencing some pretty strange symptoms. I’ll spare you the details! It was August 2012 and some weird things were going on with my body which I ignored out of fear (bad idea) until November. I finally went to see my doctor which began a 4 month period of tests and appointments but worst of all, uncertainty. Long story short, in February 2013 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – also known as PCOS.

{PCOS is a hormonal and metabolic imbalance causing many unpleasant symptoms – You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycystic_ovary_syndrome

There is no real cure, and is often “treated” with Birth Control. It can however be controlled through strict diet and exercise. You can become pregnant with PCOS, though most times, very difficult.}

Now, I could bore you with all the details, tests and appointments from the last 2 and half years but I’ve decided not to. While they’re important to me, they are likely not to anyone else! All I can say is that the last 2 and half years have been incredibly difficult. They have been filled with depression, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, jealousy, frustration, pain, tears, sweat, confusion, heartache, grief and hope. Yes. Hope. Let me explain.

See, I grew up in a home which was also a day care which my mother owned, so I was surrounded by children since a very young age. I then went on to be a neighbourhood babysitter, working in camps every summer and teaching Sunday school. I LOVED children and it didn’t take me long to realize that I really could not wait to be a wife and mother.  I honestly never cared much about becoming a business woman, or travelling all over the world, or having a big house, not that there is anything wrong with those things, my heart just yearned for a family and the rest didn’t really matter. October 8th got me the wife part, but I honestly had no idea that we would walk through infertility. And It hit me hard.  How could this be happening to us? What did I do wrong?  Is this some sort of punishment? Why us? I know the “why me” road is a dangerous one, but I think we’ve all experienced it at some point. I knew that with PCOS I could still possibly become pregnant one day, but even the thought of it taking a long time, or not happening at all, felt like my dreams were being crushed. 

I never expected to experience the pain of infertility. It is a harsh reality that I do not wish on anyone. Infertility drags you through deep dark valleys which are suffocating. There is a grief that keeps on giving. There is an unexplainable void and heartache. Pregnancy announcements become dreadful. Desperately wanting to be happy, but filled with sadness. When will it be my turn? Will it ever my turn? You become bitter. Envious. Jealous. Baby bump photos are quickly hidden from your Facebook newsfeed. You are reminded of how your body is failing you. You suddenly feel like everyone around you is becoming pregnant, and you feel alone. Completely and utterly alone. The yearning for a child can become unbearable. The single pink lines month after month are a punch in the gut. You wonder if you will ever see your husband be a father. It just plain sucks. So how on earth do you get through this? I am not expert, but I’ll share what has helped me.  

First of all, my husband. Oh my sweet husband! He has come to every single blood test with me because I’m a big wimp. He has come to every single appointment with me. He has changed his diet for me, he has exercised with me. He has encouraged and supported me all. Of. The. Way. He has put up with my wacky moods and emotional roller coasters. He has shown patience and gentleness to me in times where I most certainly did not deserve it. He has put up with my whining. He has put up with my constant complaining, rants and venting sessions. He has comforted me. He has held me and let me cry. He has held my hand through panic attacks. He has prayed for me and he has loved me. He’s my rock! I have absolutely no clue how I would even get through all of this without him and through all of this, we have only grown closer. Somehow through this, we have found a way to continue to laugh and enjoy life together. I am so thankful.  I love you Rick!

Secondly. Support from friends who are going through infertility is huge. I am so thankful for so many friends, like Jennie, who have been there for me. I’m so thankful for friends who know exactly what it feels like and who are able to just listen without offering any unwarranted, cliché advice. Friends who say, “I’m sorry”, “This sucks”, “I know exactly how you feel”. Those people mean the world to me. The validation of your emotions through this is crucial. To know you’re not alone, and not crazy! So thank you Jennie, and everyone else who has been there for me! So if you have not found a support group, or some good friends through this, get on that! You won’t regret it, trust me. 

Last but not least. Hope. My hope in Christ somehow gets me through. I know not everyone reading this is of Christian faith and that is totally fine, but I encourage you to find something that gives you hope and hang on to it for dear life because hope is what gets us through. Hope that one day; somehow there will be an end to all of this. That there is light at the end of the tunnel - however it happens. My hope in Christ gives me peace that regardless of the turnout, things will be ok. Don’t get me wrong, most days I don’t feel like this, but I always come back to this hope and it’s what gives me fuel to keep on. I don’t really know how, but it just does. So I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to search for that something that gives you hope, hang on tight and take it one day at a time!

Whatever happens, whoever it is walking with you, whatever hope you’re holding on to – know you’re not alone! This is a brutal journey! Please know that however you’re coping, whatever you’re feeling & thinking is totally valid. Just keep on hanging on, and make sure to enjoy the little things in life!  


2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" Series

Katie's Story
J's Story